- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

A Greek restaurant that serves sushi at Dupont Circle must rank as one of the most unusual dining combinations around.

Acropolis, apparently, likes to please all tastes; it also has made itself into a club of sorts. Wednesday through Saturday following the dinner hour, the roomy interior turns into a disco lounge, featuring music from around the world. Live jazz soon may be featured a bit earlier on weeknights.

The lounge feature makes it the sort of place D.C. Council member Jack Evans had in mind when he recently introduced a bill banning cover charges and limiting the size of dance floors in bars and restaurants as a way of preserving the quiet in certain neighborhoods. Acropolis boasts of a "VIP elevator" and has a $10 admission fee after 10 p.m.

But Connecticut Avenue at Dupont Circle isn't exactly residential by nature. A block or two farther south, the existence of a number of other restaurant-clubs makes the area a happening place at night so much so that it's hard to imagine how the promise of a satisfactory dining experience can stand up to the competition.

Acropolis is full of good intentions, not always fully realized.

The setting could be a backdrop for a tourism commercial, combining both modern and traditional aspects of Greek culture. Pegasus soars in a colorful mural overlooking tables covered in blue-and-white cloths. A sleek, seductively lighted bar takes up an entire wall, surmounted by a replica of the Parthenon. The center dining area by day, dance floor by night is marked by six Greek columns.

Showmanship definitely plays a big part in food presentation as well. What could be more colorful and crafty than a fine display of sushi, sashimi and California roll (cooked seafood and accompaniments rolled in rice) on a rectangular white plate with upturned corners? (All of Acropolis' dishes are white and resemble ships under sail.)

A bust of Homer on the menu cover hints at a serious regard for the food of the mother country.

But if that were the case, why would the traditional demitasse offering of Greek coffee not be available after a meal? Wouldn't the baklava be properly light and flaky and dripping with honey? Alas, portions sampled one recent lunchtime were too hard and cold to be called tasty, and they were accompanied inexplicably by chocolate squiggles on the plate.

Maybe it was a bad phyllo day.

Maybe it's best to give conscientious owners the benefit of the doubt and call the place "eclectic" from the Greek word meaning "selective." A separate sushi menu along with a fairly conventional menu listing much Greek-styled food is proof of that. Chef Peter Son is tremendously talented with seafood both raw and cooked.

Eleven choices of whole fresh fish listed at dinner and advertised as charcoal-grilled are sold by the pound for $22 to $28. The latter sum is for yellow fin tuna described as "sushi quality center cut tuna with Egyptian sesame crust." Quite daringly, an entree of crab cakes for $25.95 is described as "DC's Best." The crab cakes are $12.95 for a more modest portion at lunch.

The idea of charging by the pound this way, we learned only by pointed inquiry, is to allow for a "family-style" dinner at which portions can be shared freely around the table.

Appetizers can be disappointing. An $11.95 appetizer called Garides Saganaki, described as shrimp sauteed in butter with feta cheese, chopped tomatoes, garlic and herbs, consists of three small shrimp atop a slice of melted cheese. The classic Greek caviar spread called Taramosalata is served with an abundance of toasted pita-bread triangles but tasted unusually salty. Melizanosalata a frothy smoked eggplant dish was beautifully presented but lacked flavor.

Where Greekness is welcome, however, is in the use of fresh ripe tomatoes and in the offering of horta, a dark green vegetable smothered in olive oil and lemon juice. It's plenty flavorful good and good for you, as the healthy-food proponents might say. Another common side dish in Greece called "manestra" orzo pasta baked in tomato sauce was overcooked at lunch. Manestra at lunch is also listed as an entree.

An excellent retsina is available for fans of that resin-tinted white wine. And the waiter didn't blink when one of our party upon arrival asked for a glass of Mavrodaphne, a sweet red wine usually served with dessert. She wanted it for the memory of happy times lingering in a seaside taverna somewhere in the Aegean. Both wines went well with a delicious marinated swordfish kabob and a filet mignon kabob, the latter a real value at lunch for $12.95. A plentiful coating of oregano gave the steak kabob a welcome extra bite.

The sushi menu is impressive and comprehensive. Going all out for sushi and sashimi main courses means ordering the Acropolis Boat 12 pieces or more of sushi, sashimi and California roll for $39.95.

Another plus for Acropolis is the lack of intrusive music during meals. Some fairly typical Greek songs play in the background who wouldn't want to hear the bouzouki in such a setting? but don't run interference with conversation.

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